The plenary license that formerly belonged to the owner of Highland Place Bar & Grill in Maplewood will be auctioned off at Maplewood Town Hall on December 10. The bidding will begin at $300,000.
The State of New Jersey Division of Taxation will hold the auction, which was originally scheduled for December 4 with a minimum bid of $50,000.
The license was seized from the former owner — which is listed on the state website as Nilsatis, Inc. t/a Highland Place — because of unpaid state taxes, according to the website.
“The original minimum was $50,000 and it’s been raised to $300,ooo, which I feel is fair market value for the township of Maplewood restaurants,” said Township Clerk Elizabeth Fritzen at Tuesday’s Maplewood Township Committee meeting.
The auction will be held at Town Hall 11 a.m. More details can be found on the state’s website page.
Mayor Vic DeLuca noted later in the meeting that he and Township Committeeman Marlon K. Brownlee attended a session at the recent NJ State League of Municipalities conference about reforming the state’s “antiquated” liquor license system. He said there was “growing traction” to reform the system, which hampers the ability of small restaurants to be successful because of the cost and limited availability of licenses.
DeLuca said he spoke to some restaurateurs who told him “the younger generation is not into the BYOB stuff, that’s sort of an old thing. Now people like to go where they can order a drink.”
Even at an auction where bidding begins at $300,000, the license will likely be sold for considerably higher, DeLuca said. “No one is going to be able to spend that kind of money and be successful.”
Brownlee said there was some discussion at the conference of how to “compensate” business owners who had already invested a certain amount of money in a license that would suddenly have a much lower value.
“There’s no simple answer,” said Brownlee.
Township Committeeman Jerry Ryan said, “It really does lower the barrier to entry for new restaurants, and in a town like ours that is… trying to be a restaurant destination, relaxation of the regulations…can really help us.”